CAMDEN – A Franklinville man was arrested Friday by federal agents of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – for the second time this month – for allegedly mailing fraudulent invoices for non-existent advertisements to colleges and trade schools throughout the United States.
Robert S. Armstrong, 44, was charged by superseding complaint with two counts of mail fraud. He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen M. Williams in Camden federal court for an initial appearance on the superseding complaint. Armstrong had previously been arrested on Oct. 16 for allegedly committing a similar mail fraud scheme.
According to documents filed in this case:
Postal inspectors learned Armstrong – while out on bail following his Oct. 16 court appearance on the initial charge – was continuing to ask for and pick up mail in the name of one of his companies, Scholastic School Supply. On Oct. 21, he allegedly picked up mail from a Post Office box in Malaga, which he had opened in the names of Scholastic and another of his companies, The Trend Publishing.
Armstrong had retrieved mail, opened it and discarded what appeared to be two check stubs bearing the names of two colleges and written in the amount of $495 payable to Trend. A postal employee sent the discarded check stubs to postal inspectors.
A postal inspector contacted the two colleges listed on the check stubs and received a copy of the invoice from Trend addressed to Victim College 1. It appeared very similar in format to the Scholastic invoices except that it sought payment for what is believed to be advertising for the college: $495 for a 5-inch- by-8-inch glossy ad to be placed in the “College Edition (Fall 2014 Edition).” The invoice included a telephone number and a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) for Trend. As with the Scholastic scheme, both numbers were phony.
The dean of finance from the second college listed on the check stubs said his office had mailed a check for $495 to Trend and that no one in the purchasing department had any knowledge of ordering any advertisement from the company.
On Oct. 22, the postal inspector received bank records from Wells Fargo Bank for accounts opened by Armstrong, including an account in the name of Trend. From July through August, Armstrong allegedly deposited 59 checks for $495 each from various colleges and trade schools throughout the United States – including a law school and a medical school – for a total of $29,205. Bank records revealed that he deposited additional $495 checks from various businesses, several of which appear to be related to automobile sales and service.
Employees at three additional colleges confirmed to postal inspectors that they had received invoices from Trend seeking payment for $495 for similar advertising and they mailed payments to Trend. They also said they did not know what the “College Edition (Fall 2014 Edition)” was.
On Oct. 16, Armstrong was arrested and charged with mail fraud for allegedly mailing more than 73,000 fraudulent invoices for non-existent workbooks to schools throughout the United States.
Each count of mail fraud is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gross profits to Armstrong or twice the gross losses to the victims of his offense.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman credited law enforcement officers of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge David Bosch in Philadelphia; the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton; the Gloucester County Office of Consumer Protection, under the direction of Harold Spence, Director of Consumer Affairs; the Washington Township Police Department, under the direction of Raphael Muniz, Chief of Police; and the Franklin Township Police Department, under the direction of Mike Rock, Chief of Police, with the continuing investigation leading to Friday’s arrest.